I got busy; a pandemic happened and sort of hopefully tapered down to almost normal; in 2020 I began working remotely, and never went back to the office, meaning I have been staying at home and reading, writing, building and debugging code all day. During the long hours in lockdown I wasn’t too happy about doing more of the same after work -without the diversion of a different building, or room, or even desk-, so I became less active on the “coding for fun” front. I craved something different.

As a replacement activity I (re-)discovered woodworking.

I started with building a reasonably sized CNC machine in my spare room (yes, it’s backwards). First thing, I needed a workbench to place the machine on. For the machine I had in mind (about 80x70cm not counting cooling module and electronics), which called for a reasonably sized desk. To reduce waste, I converted the metal bunk sofa-bed of the spare room by replacing the mattress and mattress-holding frame with a 180x100cm pinewood tabletop reinforced with joists. This turned out perfect for the CNC machine and its accessories.

Once I had the CNC machine up and running - which took quite a while to design and put together - I was able to precisely cut 18mm thick redwood pine timber with relative ease, and started making small furniture and kitchen accessories with it. CNC allowed for freedom in shape design but was limited in cut size since the working area of that machine is about 50x50cm. This was not even close to large enough for my growing home improvement requirements.

Since expanding the CNC machine was not an option, I had to up my handiwork skills and my toolset. A few realisations, good and bad, shortly appeared:

  1. Moving around, cutting and putting back together large, therefore heavy, chunks of wood makes for good physical exercise, which was great during lockdown
  2. Sawing wood produces unexpected amounts of sawdust. Obviously, in hindsight, it shouldn’t have been so unexpected. I was kind of prepared for it since the CNC machine does it in first place and I had already built a basic extractor, but as soon as the scale of the project goes up, so does the volume of debris
  3. The process slows down asymptotically to a halt as the ratio between the size of the things being built and the size of the room they are been built in approaches one. This became even worse after I had to make the workshop also my working office for privacy reasons. I ended up having to build components in the workshop and assemble them at their final destination around the house, aircraft-pipeline style
  4. Need for tools whose usefulness and necessity were unimaginable arises. Luckily, those tools do exist and can be bought for a reasonable price. On the other hand, the extra room occupied by the new tools exacerbates the aforementioned dimensional problem
  5. As machining is removed from the equation, getting sub-millimeter precision requires an inordinate amount of skill and patience

Here’s a gallery of some of the stuff I’ve built along the years:

I haven’t delved into details about my tool kit. Perhaps next time.

Published March 17, 2024